The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education was established in 2003. It carries out research, education and capacity development activities in water related fields. UNESCO-IHE continues the work that began in 1957 when IHE first offered a postgraduate diploma course in hydraulic engineering to practicing professionals from developing countries.
The Institute is the largest water education facility in the world, and the only institution in the UN system authorized to confer accredited MSc degrees, and provides PhD education in collaboration with partner universities.
The UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education is based in and operates from Delft, the Netherlands, and facilitates all UNESCO member states. Through the signing of the following three agreements, UNESCO-IHE was established in 2003:
- UNESCO and the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed the Seat Agreement,
- UNESCO and the Dutch Ministry of Education signed the Operational Agreement,
- UNESCO and the IHE Delft Foundation signed the Cooperation Agreement.
The agreements include internal rules that guarantee functional autonomy to achieve the Institute's objectives.
Whilst UNESCO-IHE is prominently involved in its own research and education on the Delft premises, it is also instrumental in strengthening the efforts of other universities and research centers throughout the world, which increase the knowledge and skills of professionals working in their respective water sectors.
The member states of UNESCO have access to the knowledge and services of UNESCO-IHE in human and institutional capacity building, which is vital in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (Agenda 21) and other global water objectives.